Yesterday the Alberta government announced details of the proposed budget for 2015, which includes information about the two remaining portions of the Calgary Ring Road. As a cost-cutting measure, the West Calgary Ring Road is being delayed by four years, and construction is now slated to begin in 2020/2021. Expected completion of this leg, and ultimately the entire ring road, will not occur until 2024/2025, and the measure is expected to defer a reported $1.5 billion from the current budget time-frame. The Southwest Calgary Ring Road, the portion that runs through the Tsuu T’ina Nation reserve, remains unaffected. Work will begin on this leg of the road once the Tsuu T’ina land transfer has been approved and once a contract has been tendered and awarded, with construction expected to begin next year. The agreement signed between the Nation and the Province in 2013 commits the Province to open the Southwest portion of the road within 7 years of the land transfer, and the opening is estimated to occur in 2020. The 2015 budget allocates $2.9 billion over the next 5 years towards the construction of Alberta’s ring roads. This figure includes funds needed to complete Edmonton’s Anthony Henday Drive as well as beginning work on the Southwest Calgary Ring Road (interestingly referred to as ‘Southwest Stoney Trail’ in the Province’s 5-year Capital Plan despite a promised name change as the road crosses through former Tsuu T’ina reserve lands).
In June of 2015, the City of Calgary will begin to construct some of the first tangible work on the Southwest Calgary Ring Road Project. This work will not be on the road itself, but will be related to utilities that will run under part of the project.
The City and Province of Alberta has agreed to construct a new storm sewer line to replace the existing South Richmond Storm Trunk that currently crosses a portion of the Tsuu T’ina Nation reserve known as ‘the 940‘. The new line will be located entirely within the City of Calgary city limits along 37th street SW in Lakeview when completed, while the old line will be abandoned. This abandonment and replacement is not due to the functionality or suitability of the existing infrastructure, rather it is necessary due to reasons that are political and jurisdictional in nature; reasons that go back more than 60 years.
This article is the second in a series looking at the history of the crossing of the Elbow river near the Weaselhead. Part 1: 1956 to 1986 can be found here, and parts 3 and 4 will follow.
In the 1970s and 1980s, planning for the Southwest Calgary Ring Road, also known as the Sarcee Trail south extension, was characterized by practical considerations such as route location, land acquisition and functional planning. The period of the 1990s by contrast would be marked by something of a step-back from applied planning, and would include a serious re-examining of priorities.
The continued dominance of the automobile and the crossing of Calgary’s rivers by a network of freeways has often been seen as inevitable. This view, however, would be challenged by a renewed expression of concern over the impacts this situation would have on parks, communities and natural areas.
A New Transportation Bylaw for Calgary
In May of 1990 the City of Calgary released a preliminary look at a proposed bylaw that sought to affirm the city’s future transportation needs. In addition to public transit, bylaw 29M90 also detailed Calgary’s existing road network and plans for future expressways and freeways throughout the city. The plan was composed largely of elements from previous planning efforts, and included a map that showed proposed roads that had long been a part of City plans, including some that dated back to the early 1950s. The bylaw also contained a number of previously proposed, but as-yet unbuilt river crossings, including the southern extension of Sarcee Trail across the Elbow river. It is these crossings that would spark Calgary’s largest public consultation efforts undertaken to that point.
(Source: Calgary bylaw 29M90. City of Calgary, 1990)
The bylaw included the following new river crossings (also shown above):
1. Stoney Trail NW over the Bow river
2. Sarcee Trail north extension over the Bow river
3. Shaganappi Trail south extension over the Bow river
4. South Downtown Bypass over the Elbow river
5. 50th Avenue South over the Elbow river
6. Sarcee Trail south extension over the Elbow river
Public reaction to the proposed bylaw was swift and largely unfavourable, with citizen groups particularly denouncing the negative impact that new river crossings would have on parkland, river valleys, natural areas and local communities. Within a month of the bylaw’s unveiling, several hundred citizens had attended a City Council meeting on the topic, and many more contacted Aldermen, signed petitions and formed action groups to oppose the plan and to call for the process to be opened up to public consultation.
Although the bylaw was approved by Council in July 1990, the response from the public spurred the City to begin a multi-year, multi-million dollar consultation and review of the road network and future transportation needs the very next year. This process was called the GoPlan.
The Weaselhead Glenmore Park Preservation Society is hosting a public open house to look at the Southwest Calgary Ring Road plans for the Weaselhead and Elbow river area. The open house, to be held on October 7th and moderated by former MLA Dave Taylor, will feature presentations by Alberta Transportation, Cows and Fish and the Miistakis Institute, as well as the Weaslehead/Glenmore Park Preservation Society itself.
The presentation by Alberta Transportation looks to be the only public presentation of the SW ring road plans before the Province begins their own ring road information sessions later this month.
SW Calgary Ring Road Open Forum Details
October 7, 2014
7:00 – 9:00 pm
Cedarbrae Community Centre, 11024 Oakfield Dr. S.W.
EDIT: October 21 2014
The presentation portion of the open house was filmed and can be viewed on the video below. It provides and excellent overview of the Elbow river crossing design and the challenges and decisions that led to the proposed solution, as well as an exploration of the environmental issues that surround the design and the crossing of the river valley:
The release of a ‘virtual tour’ video of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road this past week has given the public a chance to view the proposed plans for this road in a way that maps have not been able to. The detail and context provided by the video has raised concerns over the impacts the road will have on southwest Calgary, including the Elbow River, Fish Creek and the Weaselhead. The nature, size and proximity of the cut-and-fill river crossing, combined with a realignment of the rivers, appear to be at the heart of these concerns.
(Source: Alberta Transportation)
The crossing of the Elbow river is arguably the most important link in the Southwest Calgary Ring Road project. This new crossing of the Elbow river in southwest Calgary, the first since the Glenmore causeway opened in 1963, is projected as being the single most utilized portion of the new road. Establishing this crossing has seen numerous proposals over the years; from a low-level bridge in the 1950s to a dam in the 1980s (creating a new reservoir upstream from the Weaselhead) to a consideration of a high-level bridge, and even talk of a tunnel, in the 2000s. A new crossing of the Elbow river is an idea that has undergone many revisions and alternatives in the decades since it was first proposed.
The first part of this story looks at the early proposals and the history of the crossing of the Elbow River, from the first proposal in 1956 to the project’s (temporary) cancellation in 1986. Part two, which looks at the modern river crossing plans and alternatives from 2000 to 2014, will follow.
Early plans: models and maps
In 1955 the Province of Alberta made public its desire to establish a bypass highway in Calgary’s southwest, and by the following year, the City had drafted initial plans for this road. Around the same time the City was also developing plans for the Glenmore Reservoir parks, and these two proposals would converge in the form of the first publicly released concept for the Southwest Ring Road, then known as the West Bypass, and its crossing of the Elbow river.
The ambitious plan for the proposed Glenmore Parks, containing an aquarium, a solarium, botanical gardens, an ‘Indian Village’ and more, was estimated to cost $3 million and would take upwards of 25 years to implement. When the City’s planning department was seeking approval from both the public and the City Council for the proposed park system surrounding the Glenmore Reservoir, they created a model of their proposed ideas. Along the western portion of the model lay the West Bypass, and its crossing of the Elbow river was presented to the public for the first time.
(Glenbow Archives NA-5600-8138a. Click for an enlargement of the Elbow River crossing)
The crossing, depicted as a 4-lane low-level bridge of about 180m in length with some amount of cut-and-fill on the north bank of the valley, was only conceptual at this stage. Detailed work on the entire development had yet to be carried out at the time of the model’s creation, and no engineering had gone into the designs at this point. (The road is shown along the bottom of the photograph above). Continue reading
On August 25 2014 the Province of Alberta released 3D Virtual Tour renderings of the West and Southwest Calgary Ring Road projects.
Southwest Calgary Ring Road Project:
West Calgary Ring Road Project:
Click for more information on the 2013 Southwest Ring Road deal (plus updates in March 2014 and June 2014), and the History of the Southwest Ring Road. For more information on the history of the West Calgary Ring Road, Click Here.